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Shelby County


1889 History Index

Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties
History of Shelby County, Iowa



This is a thriving place of about 600 population, situated on section 33 of Shelby Township. It is near the beautiful stream known as Silver Creek, and is on the main line of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, thirty-two miles from Council Bluffs, in an easterly direction. Its history now covers a period of an even score of years, as it dates from 1868, in which year the railroad passed through to the Missouri River. The only settler, prior to 1868, was James Hawkins, who sold the land on which the town now stands to B. F. Allen, banker of Des Moines, who platted the same in 1868. Hawkins was an old soldier of a very eventful life, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this work. He obtained this tract of land, with others, for services rendered in the Mexican war, the date of his original entry being in 1855. He settled on the banks of Silver Creek in 1866, where he erected a log cabin, in which he lived for many years. The first house built in Shelby proper was the section house of the railroad company. The next was erected by Alexander Thompson, and is still used as a dwelling. The third house was built by James W. Linn in 1869. Soon after this J. M. Wood came and erected the Shelby House, and opened a general store. In 1874 the property fell into the hands of L. Benham. The same year Dr. J. W. Campbell, now of Old Mexico, started a general store. Other early comers were Harrod Bros., who engaged in general merchandising, but are now in trade at Harlan, Iowa. In 1872 J. D. Cord came from Lucas County, Iowa, and engaged in grain lumber and stock business, taking John Davis in company with him, in 1873. They continued seven years, when Mr. Cord removed to Tacoma, Washington Territory. In the fall of 1874, E. C. Clapp came from Iowa City, Iowa, and operated a general store until 1884; he is now one of the banking firm of Davis & Clapp, of the Citizens' Bank. J. D. Cord and John Davis were proprietors of the Shelby County Bank for three years, dissolving May, 1887, when Davis & Clapp formed their co-partnership as bankers and real-estate dealers. Another man who came to the village at an early day was J. P. McEwen, from Davenport, Iowa. He was one of the prominent men of the place, and was noted for activity in all works of public character. He died in 1881, leaving a family who still reside in Harlan.

The railroad depot was built in the fall of 1869. Harrod Bros. came in 1877, and built the store building now used by W. F. Cleveland & Co. The village was incorporated in the fall of 1877, the first mayor being John W. Harrod. The place is made up of wide-awake business men of high moral and religious standing. The following societies have been organized and still flourish: A. Methodist, Presbyterian and German Lutheran church; Masonic, Odd Fellows, Good Templars, Legion of Honor, and Grand Army Post.

The Methodist Episcopal Church at Shelby had its beginning by a service heldin the half finished railroad depot, July 3, 1870. Those present were: C. J. McLaughlin and wife, J. W. Linn and wife, Dr. Campbell and wife, Mr. Wood and wife, J. P. McEwen and wife, John Edwards, the railroad agent, and several children. The preacher was a local minister named A. Johnson. The first "class" was duly organized that day, consisting of four members -- C. J. McLaughlin and wife and J. W. Linn with his wife. The class thus formed was soon atached to Harlan circuit. The first pastor was W. E. Hamilton, now president of Simpson college. The first leader was J. W. Linn; the first steward was C. J. McLaughlin.

During the first three years services were held at different private houses. In 1873 a school-house erected in Shelby was used by all the denominations for a time.

In 1877 the society built a neat edifice in which to worship. This cost $3,500. C. A. Bunker was pastor at the time.

A year later a parsonage was provided costing about $700.

In 1875 Shelby charge was taken from Harlan and added to Avoca, and in 1878 Shelby became a charge of itself.

The following pastors have faithfully served the church at Shelby:

Rev. W. E. Hamilton, one year; Rev. Parks, six months; Rev. Hauck, six months; Rev. W. Armstrong, one year; Rev. Smith, two years; Rev. Wood, six months; Rev. C. A. Bunker, one year and a half; Rev. Fred Harris, three months; Rev. W. A. Chambers, nine months; Rev. W. C. martin, one year; Rev. W. F. Bartholemew, two years; Rev. J. C. Stevens, one year; Rev. D. C. Franklin, three years; Rev. D. Shenton, present pastor, on his fourth year.

The present membership of the church is 173.

The Presbyterian Church was organized February 20, 1880, by a committee appointed by the Presbytery of Council Bluffs, Iowa, consisting of Rev. G. M. Lodge and Elders J. S. Love and George Bergen. The original membership consisted of fourteen persons, who gave in letters from various places. After a sermon by G. M. Lodge, the following ruling elders were elected: WIlliam Shiek, R. M. Pomeroy and John Edwards. N. A. Best was chosen deacon. Rev. G. M. Lodge supplied the pulpit for about two years. Rev. T. R. Lewis began his labors at Shelby in June, 1882, and was duly installed pastor of the church September 28, 1886. He resigned and removed from Shelby in January, 1888. The church edifice was erected on the corner of Plateau and Center streets in 1885, at a cost of $4,800. It is a beautiful building, with Gothic cathedral glass windows, with a spacious recess for choir purposes, back of the pulpit; also a lecture room in front, with folding doors into the auditorium. I is finished with cherry ceilings, seated with cherry-colored assembly chairs, is heated by means of a furnace, and lighted with reflectors. It comfortably seats 300 persons. This church was dedicated in March, 1885, by Revs. John Herron, T. S. Bailey and T. R. Lewis. The present membership of the society is eighty-five.

Rev. John H. Carpenter was called to the pastorate in the spring of 1888, entering on the duties June 1. In the fall of 1888 the ladies of the church purchased an 800-pound bell, known as the McShane bell, at Baltimore, Maryland.

The present (1888) elders are: R. M. Pomeroy, S. D. Abbott, R. W. Carson and J. H. Helm.

The German Lutheran Church was organized May 20, 1883, in which year the society erected a house of worship with a seating capacity of 300 people. At one time there were 66 members, but now not quite so many. The membership, for the most part, reside on farms in the vicinity of Shelby. Services are now held once a month. Rev. Kaminskie was the first pastor in charge. The present pastor is Rev. John Peterson, of Minden. The society is out of debt, owning church, parsonage and school building. A wealthy lady of Germany donated $5,000 toward this church enterprise.

The Baptist Society flourished at Shelby for a short time, but is not an active body at present.


The intelligence of the population of Shelby has always fostered the best of public schools. The beginning of edcational [sic educational] matters in the village dates back to 18--.

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass, August, 2015 from "Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties", Chicago: W. S. Dunbar & Co., 1889, pg. 272-274.

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